I feel terrible writing another post like this, since it seems like this blog is morphing into some kind of international obituaries page. Yet I cannot restrain myself in this case either. Only a few hours ago I heard the news that vidwan Nedunuri Krishnamurthy passed away in his residence in Vijaywada. He was 87 at the time and otherwise in reasonably good health. I had talked to one of his students upon hearing the news, and he had told me that until his last day he was otherwise active and eagerly imparting his knowledge. This is a classic photo of a concert of Nedunuri, with M. S. Gopalakrishnan (violin), Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman (mrudangam), and T. H. Vinayakram (ghatam). The Malladi Brothers are also in the back.
Nedunuri Krishnamurthy was one of the great Carnatic vocalists from Andhra Pradesh, alongside Voleti Venkateswarulu and M. Balamuralikrishna. He had a long, successful career as a vocalist and had the respect of all of his peers. This is readily seen when one looks at a collection of his concert recordings; all the top musicians had performed with him, including Lalgudi Jayaraman, M. Chandrashekaran, M. S. Gopalakrishnan, Umayalpuram Sivaraman, Palghat Raghu, Kamalakar Rao, Dandamodi Ram Mohan Rao, Trichy Sankaran, Vellore Ramabhadran, Karaikudi Mani, and C. S. Murugabhupathi, among others.
In fact, in Lalgudi Jayaraman’s biography (An Incurable Romantic), there is a paragraph where it is mentioned that he specifically sought out Nedunuri garu when he heard about Nedunuri’s arrival in Chennai. Nedunuri also mentions that the accompaniment of Lalgudi also filled him with courage and that Lalgudi lifting the bow of his violin was like “Arjuna lifting the Gandiva!”
Nedunuri’s music is quintessentially classical; there is no compromise for purity in anything he sings. Looking at the list of items he presented in all his concerts reveals his meticulous planning. Even in the lighter pieces towards the end of his concerts (such as the javalis), there is a rare weight in his presentation that nobody else has.
This is a rendition of Janaki Ramana (Suddhaseemanthini) with M. Chandrashekaran and C. S. Murugabhupathi. His rendition of the krithi aside, the swarams are especially noteworthy here. The eduppu is 3 matras from samam (“Raktha Nalinadhara…”) and he takes full advantage of this with especially creative phrases.
This is the “other” Janaki Ramana, made famous by Nedunuri garu and thus became a staple in his concerts. The sangathis in the pallavi and the charanam (“Kausika Makasham…”) are especially good and show how pure Kapi pidis can be used to great effect.
Nedunuri garu was most famous, however, for his work with Annamacharya’s compositions. He set to tune almost 1000 of them during his lifetime, and worked hard to popularize them, either by featuring them in his own concerts or by teaching them to others. I remember once when I saw him in person he mentioned that one of his proudest accomplishments was teaching the krithi “Bramha Kadigina” (Mukhari) to M. S. Subbulakshmi so that it could achieve mass popularity through her!
This is a rendition of Annamacharya’s “Gummani Yedi” in Purvikalyani. This occupies a special place in my heart because it is from an AIR National program last year in which my guru had accompanied Nedunuri sir.
It is fitting that I conclude with this:
I mentioned earlier that Lalgudi Jayaraman had composed the Rageshri thillana specifically for Nedunuri garu. I include this track at the end since concerts are usually concluded with thillanas. Also, this track features a mangalam that was made famous by Nedunuri garu, Thyagaraja’s composition “Patiki Haarati” in Surutti. This is from a concert with Annavarappu Ramaswamy and Dandamodi Ram Mohan Rao.
EDIT: This is also a good writeup on the vidwan.